The Colorado Division of Emergency Management and READYColorado are among the most innovative and energetic state operations in the nation when it comes to citizen preparedness.
So, it’s not surprising that the agencies are developing a special social media response team comprised of teenagers to assist the state’s efforts in dealing with disasters. Tentatively called the Colorado Social Media All-Hazards Response Team (COSmart), it will aim to create a cadre of high school and college age citizens to assist the state in better integrating social networking and other new personal technologies into disaster preparedness and response.
It is part of Colorado’s aggressive effort to involve youths in preparedness activities, including training programs and internships. The state sees the response team as a way to provide a platform for young people to offer their ideas on emergency readiness and tap their technological expertise, according to READYColorado’s Brandon Williams.
Williams told me that he hopes the team members will serve as “eyes and ears” in the community on disaster preparedness before and during emergency situations, helping to collect and disseminate information between citizens and the authorities and creating situational awareness with social media and other communications tools.
He says the program is still in the developmental phase. But what I like about this idea is that it addresses an aspect of the emergency management community’s challenge in figuring out how best to take advantage of the potential of new personal technology in disasters. A major question is how to institutionalize a relationship in advance with citizen users that can be tapped during emergency situations. One way to do so is to reach out to the civilians beforehand — similar to pre-positioning supplies before an emergency — and this Colorado initiative could be an important model of how do so.
Plus, it utilizes the unique knowledge of young people in social media and engages them in preparedness on their own terms. I look forward to following the initiative as it develops. Thanks to Eric Holdeman (via Garry Briese) where I first heard about this idea.